Message From Her Excellency Paula-Mae Weekes
President Of The Republic Of Trinidad And Tobago
On The Occasion Of Spiritual Shouter Baptist Liberation Day – March 30, 2018
Between November 1917 and the 30th of March 1951 our fellow citizens of the Spiritual Shouter Baptist faith were prohibited from openly practising their religion. That prohibition was lifted by the repeal of the Shouters’ Prohibition Ordinance of 1917. Today three members of that tenacious, resilient, steadfast community hold important positions in our Inter-Religious Organisation.
Archbishop Barbara Gray-Burke, Mother Germaine Charles Jordan and Mother Joan Irish, hold the office of President, Assistant Secretary and Treasurer respectively.
Let’s trace this journey. Faced with persecution and oppression the Spiritual Shouter Baptists went underground practising their religion surreptitiously risking a fine of two hundred and forty dollars for “offences” such as taking part in Shouters’ meetings or holding or attending any Shouters’ meeting whether indoors or in the open-air day or night.
Erecting or maintaining any Shouters’ house or confining any person therein for the purpose of initiation as well as refusing to give one’s name when questioned by Police in relation to Shouter activities were also illegal.
Even persons who were not Spiritual Baptists stood the chance of running afoul of the law, so wide was the net; those permitting Shouter activity on their land or failing to notify the police of the existence of any known activity were also guilty of an offence.
But the Spiritual Shouter Baptists never lost hope and continuously agitated to be allowed the same freedom of worship accorded to other religions. Finally, their entreaties found favour with then opposition Parliamentarian Ashton Sinanan who moved to have the Ordinance repealed. Their persistence was rewarded and the Shouters’ Prohibition Ordinance was in 1951 relegated to history.
Emerging from the shadows Spiritual Baptists thrived, numerous independent churches were established and little by little a more structured organisation emerged. While many churches maintained a fierce independence, the majority recognised the authority of one of the three archdioceses established in 1985.
But the struggle was not yet over. There was one more step. The Spiritual Shouter Baptists had to be as persistent as they had been to enjoy religious freedom in order to claim their rightful place among the acceptable and mainstream religions. After much agitation on their part Shouter Baptist Liberation Day was declared in 1996.
Our Spiritual Shouter Baptists are a source of national pride – they are a truly indigenous religion. While pulling strands from other influences including Christianity and traditional African religions, they are their own unique creation.
They have always been miles ahead of traditional organised religion in recognising women in high office long before many of their counterparts. Perhaps the African element importing the ethos of the harmonious operation of the male and female forces in indigenous African religions contributes to this forward-thinking practice.
Spiritual Shouter Baptists have modelled perseverance, dedication to cause and singlemindedness of purpose that we as a nation would do well to emulate.
Join me as I extend congratulations to the Spiritual Shouter Baptists, praising them on their achievements and offering good wishes on the occasion of Spiritual Shouter Baptist Liberation Day 2018.
Let every creed find an equal place and May God bless our Nation.